CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A recent massive natural gas explosion has no bearing on the decision to move forward with drilling three natural gas wells on Capital High School property, several members of the county school board said.
In February, Spencer-based Reserve Oil & Gas approached the board about drilling the wells. The school system asked for bids on the project in October, purchasing director Tim Easterday said. Reserve was the only company to respond.
Pending approval from the school system's legal department and the board of education, Reserve can proceed with the project.
Pete Thaw, school board president, said the explosion of a gas transmission line last week in Sissonville shouldn't stop construction.
"I'm not going to let Columbia blowing up a 50-year-old gas line scare me," Thaw said Wednesday in a phone interview.
Columbia Gas, a subsidiary of Indiana-based NiSource, owns the pipeline that exploded. The line was laid in the 1990s, and the line's wall had thinned drastically, officials revealed last week.
Although no one was seriously injured, the blast sent a massive fireball hundreds of feet into the air within miles of four public schools.
That gave board member Robin Rector cause for concern.
"Certainly now with everything that's happened in last few weeks ... I've got to have some huge assurances with the safety for this," Rector said Wednesday in a phone interview.
She said she understands the potential benefits to the project: the county is set to earn some royalty money and free gas through the deal, and there's the potential for students to job-shadow workers at the site.
But she wants to know more about the safety measures Reserve will use than was explained to her during the company's original presentation.
None of the three wells Reserve wants to drill will be anywhere close to the school, company land manager Doug Douglass told the Daily Mail in October. Two of the wells will be across the road from the school and spaced 1,500 feet apart. The third is in the "westernmost corner of the property on the same side of the road as the school," according to documents Reserve submitted with its bid.
Douglass did not return a call Wednesday.
There are connections between Reserve and Columbia, but the scope of the proposed work on the Capital site appears different than that which recently exploded, according to Reserve's bid document and Daily Mail records.
In conjunction with its sister company, United Gas Pipeline, Reserve has built "a substantial gas gathering pipeline system" near Capital, according to the bid documents. That system can deliver Reserve's production to either a Mountaineer Gas pipeline or multiple Columbia transmission pipelines. Columbia is also referred to as TCO in the bid document.
"At present and due to the significant cost advantages, 100 percent of Reserve's production is delivered to TCO pipelines," Reserve's bid documents state.
However, the systems Reserve uses to transport its gas are not the same as the Columbia line in question, according to the bid document.
The capacity of a proposed pipeline at the Capital site is smaller than that of the line that exploded as well. At Capital, Reserve proposes burying one 4-inch pipeline with a capacity to transport gas at up to 200 pounds per square inch, according to bid documents. The company plans to operate the pipeline at about 100 pounds per square inch.
The Columbia line that exploded was 20 inches in diameter and could accommodate up to 1,000 pounds of pressure per square inch.